Initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose from 206,000 to 210,000 for the week ended February 15, according to the Labor Department. Data for the previous week was revised upward by 1,000 claims. Overall, the labor market appears to be in good health, with low layoffs nationwide following increased hiring last month.
- Claims rose 4,000 to 210,000 last week, in line with market expectations.
- Data for several states was estimated due to the President’s Day holiday on Monday.
- The four-week average of claims dipped 3,500 to 209,000 last week.
The latest jobless claims report indicates strength in the labor market, and the market looks capable of sustaining ongoing moderate economic growth in the US despite low business investment and geopolitical uncertainty. The four-week average of claims, a less volatile metric than the weekly readings, dropped 3,500 to 209,000 last week.
The number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid rose 25,000 to 1.73 million for the week ended February 8, and the four-week average of these continuing claims dropped 5,250 to 1.72 million. In both cases, the alignment of the monthly averages with the weekly readings indicates stability in the labor market with few layoffs compared to the number of people being hired. However, claims were estimated last week for Alabama, California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and Virginia due to the President’s Day holiday on Monday, which may have skewed figures slightly.
Unemployment rose one tenth of a percentage point in January to 3.6% with more people entering the labor force. This was seen as a sign of confidence that people will find work, with December adding 147,000 jobs and January adding 225,000 jobs. The level of unemployment still remains near the lowest point in decades. While January’s surge of jobs was partly due to unseasonably mild weather accommodating more workers in construction, leisure, and hospitality, hiring appears to be going strong in February.
Initial U.S. jobless claims - aka layoffs - rise 4,000 to 210,000 in the middle of February. Applications for unemployment benefits cling near 50-year low and show absolutely no sign of rising. None. https://t.co/Zb4sKI4sEA pic.twitter.com/j2tdCe6i69
— Jeffry Bartash (@jbartash) February 20, 2020
The minutes of the Federal Reserve’s FOMC meeting on January 28-29 were published on Wednesday, revealing the official view that “that conditions in the labor market remained strong.” Policymakers commented that they “expected payroll employment to expand at a healthy pace this year.”, and expected economic growth to continue at a moderate pace.
Central bank officials also voiced concerns about the possible fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak in China, which has killed 2,000 people to date and placed 10% of the world’s population under quarantine while vaccine research remains ongoing. US company Apple recently announced that disruption of the Chinese supply chain would drag on their Q1 profits, and this may be the case for several other US companies, potentially impacting many businesses worldwide as the outbreak continues to unfold in the world’s second-largest economy.
Gold has held strong gains today despite in-line labor market data and a surprisingly upbeat manufacturing report. Spot gold last traded at $1,621.28, up 0.86% with a high of $1,623.17/oz and a low of $1,604.55/oz. Gold has held above $1,600 as a result of market uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 virus. Japan reported today that some passengers on a quarantined cruise ship have died from the virus, triggering a pullback in the US stock market and strengthening the use case for gold as a safe haven asset.